Oakland: Robbery Capital of the U.S.


Oakland: Robbery Capital of the U.S.
Oakland, California, endures more robberies than other American cities. However, law-enforcement experts discourage reliance on such crime statistics. Why?


Discussion Ideas:

  • Oakland, California, is the “robbery capital of the United States.” Robbery is less invasive than burglary, where criminals enter a person’s home or business. It is less violent than murder or assault. After reading the Oakland Tribune article, can students name some reasons why robbery is just as problematic as these crimes?
    • Robberies can reduce an area’s quality of life—the comfort, safety, and stability residents enjoy in their community. “Unlike homicides, which are concentrated in certain sections of the city,” the article says, “robberies are occurring all over town.” This contributes to a culture of fear, with residents “thinking twice” about walking alone and interacting with their communities.
  • Both the FBI and the American Society of Criminology reject the use of crime statistics to evaluate cities. They say city residents and law-enforcement personnel face prejudice when the statistics are presented without context. According to the American Society of Criminology, statistics such as the “robbery capital of the U.S.” “fail to account for the many conditions affecting crime rates, the mis-measurement of crime, large community differences in crime within cities, and the factors affecting individuals’ crime risk. City crime rankings make no one safer, but they can harm the cities they tarnish and divert attention from the individual and community characteristics that elevate crime in all cities.” Do students agree with this? Can they identify some conditions that may affect crime rates?
    • The FBI lists many.
      • Population density and degree of urbanization. Do students think areas with greater population density are more likely to experience crime? Why or why not?
      • Variations in composition of the population, particularly youth concentration. Do students think an area with a large concentration of teens and young adults is more likely to experience crime? Why or why not?
      • Stability of the population with respect to residents’ mobility, commuting patterns, and transient factors. Do students think areas with a greater concentration of short-term residents (such as renters) is more likely to experience crime than area with long-term residents (such as homeowners)? Why or why not?
      • Modes of transportation and highway system. Do students think how a person travels—car, ride-share, public transportation, walking—impacts the crime rate of an area? Why or why not?
      • Economic conditions, including median income, poverty level, and job availability. How do students think income and employment impact the crime rates of an area?
      • Cultural factors and educational, recreational, and religious characteristics. How do students define “educational characteristics”? “recreational characteristics”? “religious characteristics”? How do students think educational and social opportunities impact the crime rates of an area?
      • Family conditions with respect to divorce and family cohesiveness. How do students define “family cohesiveness”? Do they think it impacts the crime rates of an area?
      • Climate. How do students think climate influences the crime rates of an area?
      • Effective strength of law enforcement agencies. What qualities do students think strengthen local law-enforcement agencies? Number of officers? Response time? Interaction with the community? Access to technology? Cooperation with other law-enforcement agencies?
      • Administrative and investigative emphases of law enforcement. What crimes do students think local law-enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system prioritize? (Murder? Robbery? Embezzlement?) Why?
      • Policies of other components of the criminal justice system (i.e., prosecutorial, judicial, correctional, and probational).
      • Citizens’ attitudes toward crime. How do students think residents’ attitudes toward crime, criminals, and law-enforcement impact the crime rates of an area?
      • Crime reporting practices of the citizenry.
  • Read our article “Geo-Education: Preparation for 21st-Century Decisions.” “Geo-literacy requires three kinds of understanding,” the writer says: Interactions, Interconnections, and Implications. How do students think crime statistics such as “robbery capital of the U.S.” influence the interactions and interconnections of a community? What are the implications of those statistics for that community?
  • How do students think the six categories of geo-literacy relate to the FBI’s conditions affecting crime rates?
    • The lists complement each other beautifully.
      • Community life. These categories relate directly to the cultural and family conditions considered by the FBI.
      • Location and transportation. These categories relate to population density and demographics, as well as modes of transportation considered by the FBI.
      • Interactions across cultures. These categories relate to stability and cultural factors considered by the FBI.
      • Environmental and social impacts. These categories relate to the climate, economic conditions, and population demographics considered by the FBI.
      • Global affairs. These categories relate to the interaction of law-enforcement and criminal justice agencies considered by the FBI.
      • Acts of caring. These categories relate to citizens’ attitudes toward crime considered by the FBI.
  • Stay safe! To reduce your risk of robbery, the Oakland Police Department recommends:
    • Always conceal cellphones and cash.
    • Don’t make cellphone calls while walking on the street.
    • Avoid walking alone at night near public transportation stops.
    • Record cellphone serial numbers so phones can be returned if stolen and found.
    • Install tracking software on cellphones.
    • Be aware of your surroundings and call the police to report suspicious persons.

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